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Health Care Reform: Working Moms Get Private Breast Pumping Rooms

Posted Apr 13 2010 12:00am

Much of the coverage on  Obama’s health care reform law has focused on reducing costs, expanding coverage, and ensuring benefits for children with pre-existing medical conditions. Although the latter is very exciting for our family that includes a son born with a  congenital heart defect , the law also supports breast pumping, working moms.

CNN discovered on page 1239 of law that employers with more than 50 employees are required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”  The lactation room must be provided for up to one year after the birth of a child.

I was able to take my children to work with me and breastfeed on the job without fleeing into a bathroom or private room, but that was largely because I was comfortable doing so and wanted to set a positive breastfeeding example for the other mothers attending my preschool/playgroup.  My own mother quit breastfeeding when she returned back to work when I was three-months-old, and my sister pumped when she returned to work.  Working moms definitely face challenges when it comes to breastfeeding.

Honestly, I am not sure how I feel about this part of the health care law.  I understand not every woman feels comfortable breastfeeding in public, and I don’t think that should stop them from nourishing their child. I also understand that pumping is not quite the same as breastfeeding, and I don’t know how I would feel about doing that in public space since I never had to.  Giving women a separate place to pump other than the bathroom is a blessing, but I am also afraid it sends a message of admonishing the breast to seclusion.  Is pumping the same as breastfeeding?  Does the healthcare reform law imply separate rooms in the workplace should be provided for breastfeeding a child too?

I also do not like how the law dictates the lactation room must be available for up to a year after a child is born.  I worry employers will simply convert closets to breast pumping rooms, then close them after a year. What if a woman choses to breastfeed beyond a year?  Is she back to pumping in the bathroom?

All of the coverage I have seen on this clause of the new law is in praise, but I am not really sure this part of the health care reform law truly represents the “cultural change” it is being called by the media.

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